Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 777 New York To Kiev

Filed Under: Ukraine

Ukraine International Airlines flies out of Terminal 7 at JFK, which is otherwise primarily used by British Airways. I arrived at JFK on Alaska Airlines at around 10:30PM, so didn’t even have to clear security, given that I was arriving and departing from the same terminal. I planned things that way intentionally, since changing terminals at JFK can be a pain.

Terminal 7 is probably my least favorite at JFK, and on top of that it’s an active construction zone at the moment.

JFK Airport Terminal 7

There were renderings of what the reimagined terminal would look like, and to me it looked… just like the old terminal, minus the shared workspaces.

Renovated JFK Terminal 7 rendering

As you can see based on the departure board, there aren’t many flights leaving the terminal so late at night. After the 11PM flight to London Heathrow there’s just the Ukraine International flight to Kiev, and the Interjet flight to Mexico City.

JFK Airport Terminal 7 departures board

Since I didn’t have a boarding pass I headed straight to the departure gate, #3. There were no employees at the gate yet, though I figured I’d hang around there. Ukraine International Airlines uses the British Airways Lounge for their premium passengers, though I’ve reviewed that lounge before and didn’t even bother visiting this time around.

Ukraine International Airlines boarding gate JFK

Finally at around 11:30PM a single UIA employee showed up, and he checked me in within a couple of minutes. The departure monitor indicated the flight would board at 11:30PM, so it’s interesting that this was also when the first employee showed up.

Many passengers were standing around the gate area, though the crew didn’t show up until 11:55PM. The boarding process was such an indescribable mess. There was one contract worker who was yelling at everyone at the top of her lungs, telling people to get into imaginary queues. Many passengers didn’t speak English, so when they didn’t listen she just yelled louder. Worst of all, the way she was lining people up was extremely inefficient.

It just blows my mind the contrast between the calm and friendly manner in which flights are boarded in most of the world, and the thuggish way in which flights are often boarded in the US.

She kept saying “if you don’t listen to my instructions you will miss the flight.” Perhaps the dumbest thing she did is that she kept yelling “if you don’t understand what I’m saying then say something now.” Lady, if they don’t understand what you’re saying, chances are they didn’t understand that either.

At one point a guy went up to her and said there was a big group of people seated in another part of the terminal, and she should let them know that they need to get in line (given the sense of panic she created). Her response? “Don’t you tell me how to do my job.”

Ukraine International Airlines departure gate JFK

Finally at 12:20AM — just 10 minutes before our scheduled departure — boarding began. I’m not sure why there was such a delay, as there was no explanation from the ground staff.

Ukraine International Airlines 232
New York (JFK) – Kiev (KBP)
Thursday, May 3
Depart: 12:30AM
Arrive: 4:20PM
Duration: 8hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2C (Business Class)

While the boarding process was hectic, things were much better once onboard. I boarded through the second set of doors, and turned left towards business class. Between doors one and two, UIA has both premium economy and business class. Premium economy consisted of two rows, in a 2-4-2 configuration. It looked reasonably comfortable, and was a big improvement over their old 767s.

Ukraine 777 premium economy

Then I found myself in the business class cabin, which had 21 seats. There were three rows of seats, in a 2-3-2 configuration. Is this a cutting edge business class product? Absolutely not. But it’s a quantum leap compared to UIA’s old 767 business class.

Ukraine 777 business class cabin

UIA has generic fully flat forward facing seats in business class on their 777s.

Ukraine business class seats 777

Obviously it’s not ideal to be in a center seat in business class. The good news is that based on monitoring seatmaps it looks like UIA’s flights are rarely full in business class in advance, so you should have your choice of seats. However, the airline has a ton of economy demand, so operational upgrades seem to be common. In the case of my flight only a third of the seats showed as occupied a couple of hours before the flight, while by the time the door closed the cabin was full.

Ukraine business class seats 777

Ukraine 777 business class seats

I had initially assigned myself 3C, the aisle seat on the left side in the last row. However, I ended up moving to 2C to accommodate two people who wanted to sit together.

Ukraine 777 business class seats

Each seat had an ottoman, as well as seatback entertainment, a storage compartment, and a coat hook.

Ukraine 777 business class seats

The ottoman was large enough to store shoes or a laptop during the flight. Otherwise the seat doesn’t have much in the way of storage.

Ukraine business class seat ottoman

The seat controls were on the center armrest, and were easy to use.

Ukraine business class seat controls

The tray table could be folded out from the center armrest, and was pretty stubborn — it didn’t want to slide in and out.

Ukraine International Airlines business class tray table 777

Underneath the center armrest was a 110v outlet, USB outlet, the headphone jack, and the entertainment controller.

Ukraine business class entertainment controller and power outlets

The center armrest could be raised a bit to create some privacy when sleeping, which is a nice feature. I wish there were a partition that slid out further, but this is better than nothing.

Ukraine business class seat privacy partition

Annoyingly the seats didn’t have individual air nozzles.

Waiting at my seat on boarding was a basic amenity kit, which had a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eyeshades, earplugs, a comb, and a pen.

Ukraine International Airlines business class amenity kit

Then waiting in the storage compartment between seats was a pair of headphones, which were alright quality.

Ukraine International Airlines business class headphones

UIA also greatly improved their bedding. There was a thick pillow, a mattress sheet, and two blankets. I’m impressed that UIA made these changes so quickly after taking delivery of their first new 777.

Ukraine International Airlines business class bedding

Ukraine International Airlines business class bedding

About 10 minutes after boarding one of the friendly flight attendants offered me a pre-departure drink, with the choice between champagne, orange juice, and water.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

The crew was excellent, as they were friendly and smiling. It’s also worth pointing out that the entire crew was young, beautiful, and put pride in their appearance (their hair looked perfect, their uniforms had no wrinkles, etc.).

About 10 minutes after offering drinks, they rolled a cart down the aisle with magazines and newspapers. The only English newspaper they had was The Jerusalem Post. The guy next to me was a jerk the entire flight, and when he heard this he sighed and said “that’s ridiculous.”

By 1AM boarding was complete, and finally at 1:15AM the door closed, 45 minutes behind schedule. The plane had been sitting at the airport for hours, so I really can’t wrap my head around why the crew was late, and why we were delayed.

Shortly after the door closed the captain added his welcome aboard and informed us of our flight time of 8hr15min. He said he’d make another announcement 30 minutes before landing.

At this point Irina, the senior cabin crew member, made an announcement and then screened the safety video. UIA has a pretty creative safety video, which was much better than what I remember on the 767.

Finally at 1:25AM we pushed back, and at 1:30AM we began our taxi. The benefit of departing in the middle of the night is that you don’t deal with the typical JFK departure queues. We were airborne by 1:40AM.

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. UIA didn’t even have personal entertainment on their 767s, so this represented a big improvement for them.

Ukraine International Airlines airshow

I started by checking out the airshow for our journey, which was nicely customizable, as you could zoom in and out.

Ukraine International Airlines airshow

Ukraine International Airlines airshow

UIA had about 100 movies in their entertainment system, which is quite a bit, though only about a dozen of them were new releases. So while the system won’t be nominated for any awards soon, it was much better than before.

Ukraine International Airlines entertainment selection

Meanwhile the selection of sitcoms was very limited, as there were only six of them.

Ukraine International Airlines entertainment selection

UIA is also supposed to have Wi-Fi on their 777s, and I was able to pick up the signal, though couldn’t actually connect. I asked the crew about this, and they said that Wi-Fi isn’t turned on yet, but they hope to have a contract for it by July. So don’t expect Wi-Fi on your UIA flight just yet.

Ukraine International Airlines Wi-Fi 777

About 25 minutes after takeoff one of the flight attendants came through the cabin to take meal orders. UIA still doesn’t have menus in business class, which seems like something they should have. I was asked what I wanted to eat and drink.

Appetizer options included tomato and mozzarella or smoked fish and salad. Then for the main course the choices were chicken with rice, beef with potatoes, or cheese ravioli.

Five minutes after taking my order the tray table was set with a tablecloth. I was also offered some snack mix, as well as a packaged towel. To drink I ordered a white wine — the options were between a chablis and a pinot grigio, and I chose the latter.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — mixed nuts and champagne

The snack mix was tasty.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — mixed nuts

Just 10 minutes after the first round of drinks the appetizer and salad were served.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — appetizer & salad

For the appetizer I selected the tomatoes and mozzarella, which tasted fresh and flavorful.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — appetizer

Then there was a side salad, which was small but good.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — salad

The main was served just 10 minutes later. I selected the chicken with rice. It was more of a curry dish, which wasn’t really what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — main course

Once that was cleared I was offered dessert, with the choice between fruit or a fruit tart. I selected the fruit tart.

Ukraine International Airlines business class dinner — dessert

At the conclusion of the meal I was given a bottle of water.

Ukraine International Airlines business class bottled water

The entire meal service was complete just 65 minutes after takeoff, which impressed me. The crew was attentive, efficient, and friendly, and they cleared each course as soon as it was done. On such a late night flight I like a quick service. I also thought the food was solid.

The crew was so friendly, but the guy seated next from me was the biggest jerk. He’d yell at the crew, at one point he even grabbed one of the flight attendants in the aisle to get her attention (and he was in the window seat), and he complained about everything. “How was the cheese ravioli sir?” “Awful.” I should note that he finished the whole thing, and even went so far as to dip his bread in the dish to eat the rest of the sauce. Hmmm…

After the meal I quickly checked out the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. It was pretty basic, didn’t have any special amenities, and also didn’t seem to be very clean.

Ukraine International Airlines business class lavatory

At that point I reclined my seat and was ready to get some rest, with just under seven hours remaining to Kiev.

Airshow enroute to Kiev

Airshow enroute to Kiev

I managed to get some solid sleep. While these seats are advertised as being fully flat, I should mention that they were probably actually angled a few degrees up, because the seatback didn’t go down all the way. However, as someone who is usually really sensitive to this stuff, I didn’t find it to be an issue at all. Given the angle at which the plane flies, I like to have my seatback up a few degrees anyway.

Ukraine International Airlines business class bed 777

Ukraine International Airlines business class bed 777

I ended up getting nearly five hours of sleep, which is about as much as you can expect on this short of a transatlantic flight. I would have probably slept longer, but was woken up by an argument that arose between a few passengers and the crew. Specifically, there were some passengers who came up to business class to pray, and the crew told them they had to stay in their ticketed cabin. They refused (“my friend is sitting up here”), and it was only after the lead flight attendant firmly threatened them that they left.

Airshow enroute to Kiev

Airshow enroute to Kiev

Airshow enroute to Kiev

About 90 minutes before landing the pre-landing meal service service began. Rather than waking everyone up at once the crew offered each passenger their meal as they woke up, which was a nice touch. They kept the cabin mostly dark during this service. I was asked if I wanted an omelet or pasta bolognese. Those are two very different choices, though I guess given the afternoon arrival time in Kiev, they wanted to give passengers the option of eating based on local time in New York or Kiev.

About 10 minutes after placing my order I was brought a tray with the appetizer and dessert.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-landing meal — appetizer and dessert

The appetizer consisted of tomato, cucumber, cheese, and roast beef.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-landing meal — appetizer

The dessert tasted like some sort of pudding.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-landing meal — dessert

I ordered an omelet as my main, which was quite bland.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-landing meal — main course

I also had a cup of coffee to accompany the meal. Unfortunately UIA seems to serve instant coffee.

Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-landing meal — coffee

At around 4:30PM Kiev time the captain announced that we’d be landing in about 30 minutes. At this point the crew started to prepare the cabin for landing. Our entire flight was smooth, including the descent.

Ukraine 777 business class cabin

Once again, the crew had some issues with passengers on the descent. The jerk seated next to me refused to take off his headphones for landing.

“Sir, please remove your headphones for landing.”
“I will take them off after landing.”
“Sir, please take them off now.”
“No, later.”
“You must do it now, this is a safety requirement.”
“This is stupid.”

We had a smooth landing in Kiev at 5:05PM, and from there had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate. Upon arrival I walked towards immigration, and on the way had a great view of our plane. UIA has a pretty livery, in my opinion.

Ukraine International Airlines 777 Kiev

Ukraine 777 business class bottom line

While UIA doesn’t have an industry leading business class product, their new 777s are a massive improvement over their old 767s. Given that the airline often publishes cheap business class fares, I think they’re an excellent option for longhaul travel.

I didn’t think it was worth flying UIA’s old 767 business class, since I would rather fly premium economy on another airline. However, the 777s have flat beds and good bedding. I was also impressed overall by the quality of the food, as well as the excellent service.

So yeah, if you’re looking to book a cheap transatlantic business class fare, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend UIA.

  1. @Lucky: interesting question. You end this post with “So yeah, if you’re looking to book a cheap transatlantic business class fare, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend UIA.” What airlines would you actively not recommend for a long haul flight, regardless of price? You’ve posted many negative reviews, but I can’t recall if you’ve ever said to completely avoid an airline (except perhaps TAAG Angola perhaps?). Could be an interesting (though negative in nature) post.

  2. I was expecting to hear about the fight your window seat friend started with you over having to use the bathroom while you were sleeping but I guess you escaped.

  3. @Lucky. Great review! I have been planning to fly with them early next year, so now based on your review I will definitely do it.

  4. 10 years ago or 15 years ago, this was probably state-of-the-art for business-class. Still, the width looks pretty good.

    What impressed me is the food. Way better than Delta. And it is served individually without a tray table. Very classy for business-class, very classy for a Eastern European no-name airline, and extremely classy for a flight after 1 a.m. The soft product looks pretty damn good.

    If only you would have gotten the name of the wines and the champagne. Why didn’t you ask to see them? Come on, Ben.

  5. To answer your burning question about the difference between old terminal 7 and the remodeled one: you’ll no longer have to play spot the danish rats while waiting for departure. Hope this helps quench your curiosity.:)

  6. Had you already checked in online or anything? In a case like this I would be worried that if an agent only showed up at the gate shortly before departure, that I would miss the check-in deadline — which it sounds like you technically did? Fortunately the agent checked you in with no issue, but presumably in some cases a gate agent might refuse to check you in citing the check-in deadline time, and/or their computer might not allow it, and/or they might have already given away your seat for no-showing.

  7. I am realizing that other than Champagne, Ben and I have very divergent wine tastes… I can’t understand his appreciation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or of Pinot Grigio! I can’t ever imagine ordering Pinot Grigio over a Chablis.

    JFK Terminal 7 is in horrid condition currently, I flew out of there a few days ago.

  8. Those poor flight attendants. The fact that they were able to stay sweet and kind after dealing with several terrible passengers is nothing short of amazing. I think you should give them more props for what they did especially considering it is an Eastern European airline.

  9. Why are all the food pics blue?

    Is that the overhead lighting?

    Great review.
    I might consider them when going to Eastern Europe, depending on price

  10. I was going to say: the cabin’s blue ambient lighting did the food photography zero favors. I’m not sure I would even want to eat under a blue light. It made the roast beef in particular look positively cadaverous.

  11. @wpcoe

    Wow!! Impress how lighting affects the appearance. Cant belive Ben actually ate that under that sombre lighting

  12. How can you not disclose the type of wine? And they had no red wine? I find that hard to believe. You somewhat criticize the amenity kit even though it is identical to what other airlines give, exempt no licensed name on the products.

  13. @NICK D – Of course they have red wine. Ben just asked for white, and they told him what the options were.

  14. Good report and photos! It looks like you had a nice flight with Ukraine International. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I am planning to fly business with UIA to India but worried ablout long layover since traveling alone with kids. Can someone plz tell me if the air space they fly over is safe?

  16. Just booked a flight in J with Ukraine, as DL and Codeshares wanted $10K per seat and almost 40 hours of travel time. JFK>KBP>EVN>KBP>JFK was only $2300/pp for my wife and I, which seems like a steal, as that’s actually LESS than main cabin on DL, *and* travel time is ~16 hours each way versus a whopping 38 hours on anything DL has to offer. Both my wife and I are DMs, but the only other alternative was a non-codeshare Aeroflot SVO flight that was twice as expensive, and their J is no better from the looks of it.

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